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The Antstream Arcade Archive: Cannon Fodder

In our latest Antstream Arcade Archive feature, we take a look at another specific game from the

Antstream Arcade retro gaming vault, giving you the lowdown on its plot, gameplay, tips and more. This month we proudly present Cannon Fodder, Sensible Software’s brilliant action-strategy game that demonstrates beyond all doubt that not only is war hell – it’s jolly good fun, too!

Private Antstreamer reporting for duty, sir!

That’s the spirit! We’ll make a soldier out of you yet. But be careful private – this set of missions is a challenge for even the bravest combatant. Are you ready to face the stiffest assignment of all?

I’m ready! But hang on – is that a poppy?

Affirmative. Controversy reigned back in the Nineties when Cannon Fodder was first released thanks toits depiction of the flower on its cover. This was eventually dropped for the more comical image we know and love today, but the loading screen still presents the red poppy. The result was a game that many critics assumed was anti-war, despite its violent overtones, and the roll call of vanquished soldiers at the end of each mission would seem to reinforce this notion. The game’s authors didn’t intend Cannon Fodder to have such themes from the beginning, but it slowly morphed into a comment on the cost of conflict as they developed the game, giving each individual soldier a name and forcing the player to see who had been killed at the end of each mission.

Oh I see what you mean. Poor old Jops.

The Sensible Software team had great fun naming the soldiers. Jools is Julian Jameson, designer and programmer; Stoo is Stuart Cambridge, designer and artist while the aforementioned Jops is the nickname for designer Jon Hare. RJ is audio and music wizard Richard Joseph, and there are also plenty of cultural references (watch out for U2 band members and Mario) as well as guest appearances from other Sensible Software games such as Wizkid and Zark.

Standing by for mission briefing.

At ease. Cannon Fodder, as the name suggests, is all about those expendable grunts that form the

majority of any army. Under the player’s direct control, these little chaps must be guided around each map with the prime objective elimination of the enemy while trying not to get your own men killed. There is a grand total of twenty-three missions to tackle, taking place across jungles, deserts and snowy wastes.

I assume my soldiers will have some sort of weaponry at their disposal?

Each trooper is armed with a machine gun which is easily capable of killing an opponent soldier with just one shot. However, it isn’t long before the enemy are deploying jeeps, tanks and helicopters against your forces and for these you are required to break out heavier ordnance. Grenades and rockets are both available as the game progresses, but beware – ammunition is limited and if you run out with an objective still left to complete, the mission is classed a failure, and not a glorious one either.

I would very much like to keep as much of my army alive as possible. Any tips?

That’s a novel concept. OK, after the gentle stroll of mission one, mission two of Cannon Fodder

introduces the player to the danger/advantages of water. Troopers move much slower through water and are even unable to fire at certain depths. Watch out for swimming enemies that you can pick off while avoid taking a dip should danger be lurking nearby. For the latter missions, try and learn how to drive vehicles such as the Skidoo effectively – it may just save your soldiers’ lives!

What else can I play on Antstream Arcade that similarly evokes the futile nature of war?

For more war-based fun, try the SNK arcade games POW: Prisoners Of War and Ikari Warriors. And in a similar vein to POW, there’s The Great Escape, where capture and failure to escape the foreboding mountain-bound prison saps at your morale. Finally, there’s Cannon Soccer on the Commodore Amiga, an exclusive set of two festive Cannon Fodder missions that were initially given away on the cover of Amiga Format magazine. Nothing says Christmas quite like being strafed by an attack helicopter.

War. Huh. What is it good for?

For having loads of fun on Antstream Arcade! Cannon Fodder is available on the Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo on Antstream Arcade. Choose your platform and let the military mayhem commence!

Thank you for reading - watch out for another blast from the Antstream Arcade Archive soon!

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